ECMA 2012 “Let’s Get Digital!” Panel Summary

Last weekend at the East Coast Music Awards, I had the pleasure of moderating the “Lets Get Digital!” Panel with Jeff MacArthur (MGImedia Communications Inc., Halifax, NS); Brenden Mulligan (Onesheet, San Francisco, CA);  and Stephen O’Reilly (Mobile Roadie, London, England). The objective of this panel was to discuss some of the most critical aspects of an artists career from an online perspective. Obviously this is a fairly wide topic range so we were unable to get really deep into anything in particular. For this reason, in this blog post, I have provided links for additional reading on each topic that was mentioned on the panel. If you have any questions feel free to post them in comments and I will do my best to answer them.

1. What are the key elements an artist website should include?

  • Buy your URL: If you don’t have your URL or a site, buy your URL and get something up now! This is important even if it’s just a simple landing page with a link to your social sites and contact info.
  • Blog/News section: This is somewhere where you can post updates, and share stuff with your fans. It is critical that this section is easy for you to make updates on your own and embed audio and video. There should also be a way that your fans can easily share anything you post on Twitter, Facebook and other social networks. For an example of this check out the Share section and Facebook like section on the bottom of each post on Carmen Townsend’s website.
  • Music Section: It’s critical that there is a way that people can listen to and purchase or download your music on your website.
  • Video Section: Having a YouTube video embedded on your site is a great way to provide more insight and content to the viewers of your site.
  • Contact Info: Make sure that it is easy for people to get in touch with you for licensing, booking opportunities, etc.
  • Press Section: It will make your life easier if you have a place on your website where press and bloggers can go to download high res pics and your artist bio.
  • Tour or show section: Make sure that you post your performances on your site. If you use to manage your shows and itineraries you can use our web-feed tools to automate these updates
  • Website Analytics: It is important to track the success of your website. How many people go to your website? What do they do when they get there? Where are they coming from? How long do they stay? This is a topic all in itself. I would suggest installing Google Analytics in your website. It’s free and their is a tonne of training material out there to help you wrap your head around its complexities. Note: If you use Bandzoogle as your website, they have a built in analytics module. It is key to establish goals with your metrics and to check your performance vs. your goals to assess how you and your team are doing with your online initiatives.
  • Focus: Don’t overwhelm the user with options on your website. Some websites can be too busy. Showcase the one thing that you want viewers to do the most or the item you want people to know about the most.
  • Call to Action: This is where you want to get your site viewers to do something. This could be to join your email list, download a new track, buy tickets to a show, buy an album, etc. Here is a great post from Bandzoogle on this topic.
  • Tweak for Conversions: Once you have established a call to action, and you have analytics working on your site you can now start measuring your conversion rate. That is the % of site viewers that proceed to your call to action. Then you can experiment with different elements of your website to work on improving your conversion rate. Some of the things you can experiment with include: changing placement, changing the call to action reward, changing copy and content, design, etc.
  • Driving Traffic to your website: SEO or search engine optimization is one of the ways that you can improve traffic to your site. You can also use your Twitter, Facebook and other social sites to drive traffic. Here is a great post “9 SEO Tips for Musicians” from Lior Levin featured on Hypebot.

For more information on artist websites check out “6 Rules To Make a Band Website That Rocks” from Bandzoogle’s Chris Vinson and “The Musician’s Guide To Affordable and Effective Websites” from Cyber PR’s Ariel Hyatt.  Also, please make sure you check out this great article from Digital Music News that explains why you should not use your Facebook page as your website.

In addition to all the above information, here are some tools that can be helpful in building a fast, functional and appealing web presence. I have used each of these services and highly recommend both of them: OneSheetBandzoogle.

2. What are the best ways to track your presence online?

Today people are sharing music and their thoughts on music and bands in the online world at an alarming rate. This is happening on blogs, messageboards, Facebook, Twitter and various other sites and social networks. In addition, illegal downloads are still one of the most popular ways people obtain music. It is critical to be aware of all of this. Knowing where these people are, who they are and what they are saying or downloading is critical in making tour, release and marketing decisions. There are some awesome and affordable products on the marketplace these days that can be very helpful in keeping your eye on all of this stuff. Here are some examples:

Track your progress against your goals on a regular basis. Use this data to see what is working and where it is working. Learn about your fans and then come up with innovative ways to nurture and grow your fan base based on this data. Please make sure you compare each product and try and decide which one works best for you because these platforms can change very quickly.

3. What is the importance of a mobile presence for an artist?

First of all, it is very clear that the use of mobile devices has grown considerably and is showing no signs of slowing down. Check out these stats on the growth of mobile devices from our friends at Mobile Roadie.

Also, the amount of e-commerce that takes place on mobiles is growing through the roof. In 2009 eBay did roughly $900 million in sales from mobile devices. In 2011 this number grew to $5 billion.

The first and likely easiest step to your band’s presence being mobile friendly would be to make sure your site is mobile friendly. Here is a great tutorial on how you can make sure a website is mobile friendly.

Once you start growing your fan base and want to take advantage of the features and control offered by mobile applications then it is time to produce an iPhone and or Android app. There are several ways to do this and many companies in this space. The noticeable leader is Mobile Roadie. Their apps are killer and the back-end is top notch! (check below for the differences between a mobile app and a mobile site). If you can only afford one of the 2 platforms the easiest way to decide which to go with would be to compare browser stats from your site’s Google Analytics to see which platform is more popular within your fan-base.

4. What is the difference between a mobile app and a mobile site?

Mobile apps offer a much more control than mobile sites. Here is a great article from the folks at Mobile Roadie that covers the difference between mobile. One of the strongest features of the mobile app is push notification. Read this blog post to learn how bands can use push notifications.

5. How relevant is an email list today for artists? What are some of the best practices with email lists?

The bottom line is that despite all of the growth in social media, your email list and newsletter are still very relevant and integral parts of your marketing and fan nurturing strategies. Unlike many social media based forms of interaction, email is a direct form of communication and requires the end recipient to take an action. At the very least, they actively have to delete the email. With Facebook and Twitter it can simply be ignored or missed entirely. Here are some best practices for managing your email list:

  • Opt in only: Do not just start adding email addresses to your list. Make sure people opt in to your list. You can gather emails through your call to action on your website, at shows and through other promotions and contests. It is poor Internet etiquette to just add peoples email address. In fact in many countries in the world (including Canada and the USA) it is actually against the law.
  • Do not abuse your list: Do not over send. Do not over sell. Do not share your list with other bands.
  • Use a mail/newsletter service: MailChimp; FanBridge; Constant Contact are just a few examples… there are many more. Search the net and find out which one is the best for you. FanBridge is built specifically for bands, which is why it is considered to be one of the more popular services. Sending emails to large groups of people is more complicated than it sounds. If you BCC a message or newsletter to a few hundred or more email addresses in Gmail or within your native mail software you will quickly be spam flagged. THIS IS A BAD THING. DO NOT DO IT! EVER!!! Newsletter services like the ones mentioned above go to great lengths to ensure proper delivery and spam flag prevention. In addition they come with a bunch of awesome analytics for each email campaign and convenient features for growing and managing your list.

6. What can you do to keep up to speed with what is going on with the Digital Music Space?

- Music industry conferences often have panels on digital music topics, check them out!

- Newsletters/blogs such as: Digital Music News, Hypebot, and Music Think Tank

- Podcasts such as Ian Rogers “This Week in Music”

- Watch artists that are doing a good job with their online presence and learn from what other bands are doing, even if you don’t like their music!

- Mashable and other generic social stuff. Here you may find things that are working in other spaces but are not yet tailored for the music space. This can allow you to be ahead of the game by paying attention to what’s up in other spaces outside of music.

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